tv Tavis Smiley WHUT November 24, 2009 10:00pm-10:30pm EST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight, our conversation with tennis great serena williams, the owner of 23 grand slam titles, who regained the no. 1 spot in tennis last week, the fifth time that she has held the ranking. last month but she made news of a different kind following a confrontation with a line judge at the u.s. open. she is out with a new memoir called "on the line." serena williams, coming up right now. >> there are so many things that wal-mart is looking forward to doing, like helping people live better. but mostly, we're helping build stronger communities and
relationships. with your help, the best is yet to come. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports "tavis smiley." tavis and nationwide, working together to improve financial literacy and the economic empowerment that comes with it. >> ♪ nationwide is on your side ♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: pleased to welcome serena williams to the progr. she is once again on top of the world of women's tennis after regaining the top ranking in sports last week. she has won two grand slam titles this year, including one
at the australian. her new book of memoirs is called "on the line," with great lessons from her life today. serena, nice to have you look back on the set. the last time you were here with your sister, venus, it has been a few years ago. >> it has been a while. tavis: venus williams, her sister, designed the set. when you see me sitting here and satellite interviews, venous design the whole thing. she sent me an email when i was starting to the show. she said i heard you were doing a new show and i want to get into design when my career is over. >> that was so nice of you. she does a great job. she designs things, she did my apartment as well. i love the set. we have to get her to come back. tavis: she still wants to move in that direction?
>> absolutely. she has a good eye for it. she is good at it. i think she is awesome. tavis: what you want to do after tennis? >> i love fashion design, i love writing. recently, i ha gotten into writing, which includes this book that just came out with, "on the line." i am really artsy. everything that has to do with things like art. tavis: there is a great picture of you in the book of you and venus. you make a point in the book that when you get a chance between matches and practice, you like to read? >> i love reading. i read all the time. we used to have a book club where we would read tons of books. it was a three-person book club. we would pass the books, and ourselves. you would are a little geeky.
that can be good, though. tavis: what did you make of the process of writing the book? >> i had a wonderful co-author who did a great job. what i love about this, we sat down together. he sent me things, i crossed stuff out and literally wrote a lot. it was a team effort. sometimes people write memoirs and it is not their voice, but when you read this book, it is my voice. i would go to him for direction, to you think this is good or the like this? in the back of my book is a diary of what i kept at the u.s. open. tavis: what is the message that you wanted to communicate? at this point in your career, with so much more to do, what did you want the book to communicate? >> at the time when i wrote the book, i had just become number one in the world again. i thought life for me is all
about timing. i thought the timing was great. maybe a year prior to that, i was ranked almost 200 and the world, i had fallen off. i had gotten injured, took time off. everybody said i would never be get -- everybody said i would never be number one again, everybody said i was fat, it was just never, never, never. all of a sudden, i come back, i win grand slams and i am number one again, which no one ever thought would happen. i thought it was a good opportunity for me to share with the world that when people said no, then just look them in the face and say, yeah, i can do anything i want to do. tavis: great segway for the cover of "espn." this is the body issue of "espn." everybody in the country is
talking about this cover. are you happy with that cover? >> i am really happy with it. i wanted to do something super classy and tasteful. i want people to know that you could have great curves like me and still be sexy. that is kind of direction that i am going. it was a lot easier. i was completely flattered they want me to be on the cover. i was really excited. i thought the picture came out really well. i worked with a great photographer. i'm really excited about it. tavis: there are a lot of women who celebrate the fact that you and your sister have made it a vogue for black women's bodies to be celebrated. when barack obama got elected, it is putting a different spin on what is fashion and beauty. talk to me about your own journey as a black woman, having this body, the way it is crafted and constructed, appreciated and not ridiculed.
>> that is a lot of problems that i ran into, which rode into the book, "on the line." people would say, well, she is booked. honestly, it does not matter how much weight i lose, i will never be size to. i'll always have these giant boobs and is great big tush, this is just too i am. there are so many people out there who have this type of body type. i think it is important for you to excel with what you have and be you and love who you are. there were a lot of times where i would look in the mirror and say, my legs are too fat, but it is important for me to let everyone know that everyone has these feelings and those moments, but i also realize this is who i am. tavis: one of the things that seems to me that you and your sister have done with these body types is to redefine the women's game in terms of the
technicality. not unlike what tiger woods has done with a cough, he is not hitting the ball 300 yards just because he is lucky. it -- just like a tiger has done with golf. he has structured his body in such a way that he gets the most out of it. tell me about how the game of tennis has changed. >> the game h completely changed. when we first came on, people were not as fit and strong, and now people live in the gym and hit harder than i could hit. there is a total difference in the game and the way that people approach it. even in the beginning, we had our own physiotherapist that traveled with us, did exercises with us, an people started doing it, too. not only on the women's tour, but the men's tour. it evolved. it evolved into a new thing where is all about the gym and not just being on the court.
tavis: there is this line in the tennis world where they think that the younger sibling never quite lives up to with the older sibling has done, patrick mcenroe and john mcenroe is one example. did you ever wrestle with that when you heard that the younger sister -- people told you would never be as good as venus? >> i was always told that i would never be as good as venus i was just the number sister. i never understood how people would say i cannot be good because of history. just because of someone else did in the past is nothing to do with me. it was really hard because venus got all the attention and the love, which i appreciated and i was never jealous, but it actually motivated me. i remember when i was really young, and i wrote about it in the book, there was this article that said venus was going to be
good and i would end up being like the second time that chris everett had a sister who did not do well, maybe just do a little bit. i was really devastated by that. i think that help me work harder and realize that i will have to prove myself more than my sister had to do. i had to work harder, and i think at the end of the day it helped me. tavis: how have you kept this competition from causing consternation in your relationship? >> it is impossible for me to have a bad relationship with the venus because she is the sweetest girl in the world. i gave an example in the book of how one time, just to show how nice she was, had spent all of my allowance on ice cream. we would always go to the ice cream truck. i spent all my money and i did not realize that some of my allowance was lunch money. i never had lunch food that whole week.
venus gave me her money to have lunch and she would have the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, just make sure i could eat. i probably needed to peanut butter and jelly sandwich to get the lesson, but that is the kind of sister she is. at the end of the day, my sister is always going to be there. that is how i have always looked at it. i love it because i live with the venus. every time i come home, she changes the hse. now we have new furniture, new everything. she loves designing. now we have a bigger room and she has knocked down a wall. i love it. i did not have to pay for anything. i get to live and a brand-new house every month. -- i get to live in a brand-new house every month. tavis: why do you all choose to
still live together? >> i am away from home enough already. i do not envision myself not living together. i do not know how that will work out. tavis: it could be a really big house, i guess. >> i just love being with her, besides the fact that she pays the bills. besides all that, it is just a great feeling. we have been together our whole lives, so it will be very tough one day to realize i have to move on, but i do not know if i am even ready to think about that. tavis: i'm trying to think about the term, after the australian, you were 81st in the world, came back and won. you are back to being number one again, for the fifth time. what is the most difficult part? whether it is injury, or whatever else, having been number one and try to get back
there again? >> really, being the girl who gets number one by not winning the tournament, just playing every week. that is the toughest part. because i do not play every week. i just tried to do the best i can, but other than that, you just have to continue have drive. everyone is improvi. we play so many new people that are a lot younger than i am. tavis: you are getting to be an old lady. >> i am practically everyone is grandmother out there. that is different, all the new faces and all the girls who are fresher and younger and so much more energy, especially playing someone they looked up to. they're like, oh, my god, i cannot believe i am planning serena williams, and i am thinking, oh, my god, i cannot believe that you looked up to me. tavis: as you get older, you
specifically for your game, what have you found yourself -- don't give away your strategy, but what kind of adjustments have you had to make to remain competitive as you get older? >> i find myself working out more off the court. i used to do more time on the court. i am doing a lot more training, more physical work off the court, even just slimming down more so that i can move faster on the court and things like that. with each year, the slimmer i get, the better i am with my performance, so it has been interesting. these are some things that people tell me that i do, the people i work with. they say this is what you need to do, but more time into this, and at last everyone. tavis: what part of your game can you get. ? >> i have always felt like i can
do it, but i have never felt like i have reached the peak i feel like i could serve better, return better, move faster, come to the met more -- come to the net moore. -- more. i can do so many things more. i watch some of the men play tennis and i think if i could incorporate that into my game i could be so much better. tavis: what part of the game have you heard critics talk about most consistently that you think they underrate? what part of your game is most underrated? >> i think my strategy is underrated, because everyone says that i hit really hard. i play people who hit much harder than me. i do not even think that hit as hard as people think i do. lately, i have been really
moving the ball around. even last week when i played, i move my supply -- a move my opponents a much that i ended up winning. what do you think? tavis: this may get me into trouble, so that me let you say it. there are two things that i think of lightly where you are concerned. i think that race plays a factor. since you asked me, i will answer. i think there are sometimes what people do in sports with african-americans, they give us too much credit for our athletic prowess, as f. -- as if we're not thinking strategically, and that troubles me some time. "serena is great because she is so athletic," as if she is not thinking strategically. the other thing, my camera crew, mostly guys, we were talking
before you came on the set about the u.s. open, what people refer to as the meltdown. the first thing i thought was race. also, i thought it was sexist. men have meltdowns every day. a kick dirt on the umpires and baseball, nadal had a meltdown the day after you did, mcenroe would scream and yell. i am not casting aspersions or condoning it. we do this all the time, but the exposure, the overexposure with what happened to you i thought was a bit sexist onhe part of the industry. your response? >> i agree with you. i think that a lot of guys do things differently. there is a double standard sometimes being a female, especially african-american female, from being a male athlete or someone like that. also, i think the athleticism, i
totally agree. they say i am a great athlete, which i am, but i also started just. -- but i also strategizing. -- but i also stratagem aegize. tavis: looking at you where you were now in juxtaposing from where you came, what you make of all that you have been blessed to do? there is been a lot of hard work, but what you make of where you are now and where you started? >> a feel like now i am just moving more and to myself, looking more inside of me. when i started, i was really just hoping. i wanted to be number one, i wanted to win grand slams, i wanted to do a, b, c, d.
now i have done a lot of stuff. i still want to do more. i feel like now it is about chasing records, as opposed to trying to prove myself that i can play. even though i am the younger sister. tavis: one of the things i have come to appreciate, and i know this watching you and i have been blessed with this in my own life, but i wonder sometimes how much more, how much better the lives of african-american youth would be if they could be exposed. i have a foundation where i say that black kids are like kodak film, they just need exposure. talk to me about what you have learned, how your life has changed as by the travel, all over the world? >> it makes a big difference to be a travel or even sometimes black kids do not even leave the
community. i used to lift an area in middle florida where people did not leave their city and they were 20 years old. for me, that was literally unbelievable. i think it is important to have a balanced life by getting out and seeing things. if he cannot do it, go on line, do research, read, learn -- if you cannot do it, go on line, do research, read learn. my foundation deals with education and it encompasses just learning about life and about other cultures and about what you can do as an individual. tavis: at th point in your career, as you look back on your parents, we all appreciate our parents at different stages in our life, talk about your parents. >> my parents league -- my parents mean so much to me. i feel like i should call them absolutely every day and talk to them every day, but sometimes i
get so busy in my schedule is so hectic and i did not a chance to do that. i love my dad with all my heart. if it was not for him, i would not be sitting here talking to you. that is because of him and his dream, i have been able to live my life and be so blessed. there are no words or any thing that could ever show my appreciation for that. and my mom is great, too. sometimes you have a parent who has such an amazing dream like my dad, and then the other parent, like my mom, she might be a little wary of the dream, but she was never that w. she encouraged my dad every step of the way. i would describe my mom as the spine of the human body and my dad was the body. you need both of them to function and both are extremely important. i think i have been so blessed to have two parents, let alone
two parents who had such amazing dedication. i was trying to train my dog to do something and i got tir. i did not have the dedication. tavis: i am just laughing at your example. >> that is a terrible example, but it goes to show the dedication that my parents had. i just hope that i have the same dedication. tavis: you do not have to answer this question, but i am curious because i thought about this. what did your dad say to you after the u.s. open? >> he just gave me a hug and he did not say anything. my dad is so supportive. and he is the most supportive person in the world. everyone thinks he is tough, but it is my dad who is super nice, mama's tough. he just gave me a hug and asked
me if i was ok. the next day i had a doubles match. he just told me to make sure that i stayed happy and calm. it really helped me to know that i had his support. at the end o the day, my family means the most to me and their support means the and the most -- their support means the most to me. tavis: at some point you may write other books. with you, there will be others. what ultimately do you want to accomplish with your life, beyond this? >> i have two dreams. one of my dreams is tolay an action star in a movie. i think i would look good as an action hero. tavis: i think so. >> i have the body and the moves. tavis: i see that. >> another one, i love writing.
i have been working very slowly on writing a screenplay, which i call a trauma mixed with a comedy. i would love to write a tv show. something that revolves around just something that i would make up, a little fiction, maybe a little truth here in there. i have called it a mixture between "desperate housewives," "sex in the city," and "family guy." those are some of my biggest dreams. then i have my fashion line. i have two, one of which is exclusively available on home shopping. those other things that i would love to do. tavis: those are things that i
would expect you to do. i would never bet against serena williams. her new book is called "on the line." it is a great book and great life so far. thank you for coming on. >> thank you very much. tavis: that is our show for tonight. a catch me on weeknights on -- catch me on the public radio international. until then, good night from l.a., and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley on pbs.org. pete escovedo. that is next time. we will see you then. >> there are so many things that wal-mart is looking forward to doing, like helping people live
better. but mostly, we're helping build stronger communities and relationships. because with your help, the best is yet to come. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports "tavis smiley." tavis and nationwide, working together to improve financial literacy and the economic empowerment that comes with it. >> ♪ nationwide is on your side ♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possiblby kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org--